Monday, August 12, 2019

An...."interesting" weekend.  I'm definitely ready to just be done with people and things.  I've already noted this before, but it's really funny how my immediate reaction to being stressed, tired, or even just unhappy is to turn towards trying to get things done or accomplished.  That's not necessarily a bad thing at all, I mean it sort of makes sense really -- just gotta work through it so that it'll all be over sooner.  But it is sort of funny how it's during the myemie times that I can't think about taking a break.  It's extremely rare that I'll get to the point where I really just decide that I'm out.  Of course, it does happen.  But before I get to that point, it really annoys me if I show any sort of weakness.  I'm not really sure how I got to be that way, whether it was some sort of military discipline instinct or just something I think is a generally good attitude to have regardless.  Maybe it's because seeing other people slack off when the going gets rough always really bothered me.  The whole idea of being "hardcore" back in the marching band days.  The people in the group who weren't, who really didn't care...it was always a big issue.  But that's just how it is, in life -- everyone's here for different reasons, and they all work in different ways.  Hopefully, you find yourself in situations where you can cooperate with the people around you and feel comfortable.  Every once in a while you don't, though, and I guess that sort of happened this weekend?  Sometimes it's not malicious but rather, just unfortunate.

So uh...I guess that all was a really roundabout way of saying that this weekend was kind of unfortunate.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Life has continued to be pretty good these days...


Took another crew out to the deep for Space Alert and we managed to successfully complete all of our missions, including a hilarious SNAFU where we managed to end the mission with the right side of our ship completely falling apart and two of us knocked out by a plasmatic fighter...

DJed for FNW again yesterday!  Man it is really warm these days, sometimes I forget since I'm always indoors with A/C at home now (spoiled...).  It wasn't as stressful as last time, maybe I was just nervous that day or something *shrug*.  Anyways, my next gig will be JaSmix, going to make sure to cram all of the best songs into my set for that of course!

I've started trying to work on my JaSmix workshop as well.  Thinking about teaching these things has actually definitely given me the impetus to actually improve my dancing, which was sort of a pleasant surprise.  I guess it's as good of a motivation as any to try something a bit different with my dance and really explore it so that I can talk about it effectively.  Well, hopefully anyways.  We'll see how it goes.

Was really happy with my OHC entry this past week, had a sort of System Shock 2 vibe going with some neat rhythmic filtered pads.  (Speaking of System Shock 2, been thinking about going back and finishing that Ponterbee Station playthrough...)  I've started on the next composition on my plate which is another VGM remix -- that one is coming along, but fairly slowly, which is slightly concerning, but I guess not all of these can be things that I knock out in a single hour...

Studied Puyo a bit for PPT and it's definitely been more than good enough to cover my butt when I totally screw up in Tetris and fail to do anything meaningful lol.  There's still a lot of experience that I need on both sides to really understand a lot of effective play though.  Sometimes in Tetris I still just sort of blindly downstack without really doing anything effective.

The other week I was thinking a lot about tactics games and why Tactics Ogre really impressed me, even though in some aspects it was less "cool" than FFT.  I went and looked at some FFT mods actually, seeing if there was anything that was maybe worth playing through, but in the end decided not to.  I think the thing about Tactics Ogre (or, the One Vision mod specifically), is that it really managed to bring "Tactics" to the genre, which I appreciated.  In these tactics games, both class design and equipment choices should always be about tradeoffs and specialization.  It doesn't make sense to have a unit that is a jack-of-all-trades because you can only do a single thing per turn, so specialization is the name of the game.  But there always needs to be strengths that are balanced out by weaknesses, and each unit needs to have a defined role.  There can be mages that have high magical attack, but really weak defense.  That creates the need for knights which are really good at defending squishy units -- and in Tactics Ogre they even come with movement-inhibiting abilities that prevent enemies from just waltzing right past them and attacking your squishy mages.  But then you've also got archers which can attack the mages from afar without having to deal with the knights, but only if they have good positioning.  Again, it's all about tradeoffs.  That's an area where FFT definitely falls short -- FFT is more about just making cool combos and doing the most damage with everyone.  In FFT if you deal more damage, you do more damage to EVERYTHING, and class and equip configs just become a matter of who can out-DPS everything else and have the speed to apply it.  In Tactics Ogre on the other hand, you have Ninjas that can dual-wield daggers/katanas, which are excellent against squishy targets like mages and archers.  So the ninja is this specialized assassin unit whose role is to use high mobility to take out the high priority targets, and use high evasion and one-time defensive abilities to avoid getting killed along the way.  But ninjas can't really do nearly as much damage to tanky knights, because knights have a lot of defense, and that defense gets applied to BOTH of the hits of your dual-attack.  So what do you do if you need to take out these heavy knights?  Well, you either need mages, or you need a berserker unit that can wield a massive two-handed hammer/maul to chunk through their defense.  Again, more specialization.  Even in unit formations, there are tradeoffs -- you want to have your tanky frontline units surrounding/protecting your DPS dealers in the back, and you don't want to just leave holes in your formation everywhere, but at the same time if you clump everyone up that's just asking to be hit by AoE magic spells.  Tradeoffs!  That kind of thing is just not possible in FFT since you only have 5 units or so...

I finally got a "god run" in risk of rain 2 with Rex, and unlocked the final achievement, so now I've unlocked everything in the entire game!  It started off with an early 57-leaf-clover (best item in the game) and ended up spiraling way out of control when I got another 57-leaf-clover, some other good items, a ceremonial dagger, shaped glass, etc.  The early game was a bit stressful since Rex needs very careful HP management, but once I got to a certain point the shaped glass + ceremonial dagger was just sort of decimating everything and I also found a teddy bear printer and got myself 13 teddy bears so I had a ton of evasion as well.  After a while I ended up stacking FOUR shaped glass so I was now dealing 1600% damage and things were just melting even with just my auto-attack (not even my secondary attack!).  It got to the point where the ceremonial daggers would just insta-kill everything that spawned, including the teleporter bosses, and I basically only ever had to attack at the very beginning of a level to get things started.  Pretty insane.  Even after leaving my computer running overnight (perched in a safe spot), I was still pretty much instantly killing everything.  The only thing that could possibly kill me is Happiest Mask, which is currently bugged and sometimes the ghosts actually end up attacking (and dealing damage to) you for some reason.  So after getting bored, that's how I ended up going out.  (Would have liked to go to a shrine of order at some point for the lulz, but didn't find one.)

Went to see the 3rd Hibike movie a couple weeks ago....it was good, enjoyable, but certainly not up to the level of either of the anime seasons, nor Liz and the Blue Bird.  I think there were some really interesting feelings that got evoked with how much things changed, and how inconsequential some things seemed when put into the perspective of transience (or maybe that's just how I feel about everything)...at the same time it feels like the movie was not really saying that much, and some of the themes really felt very muddled, especially when compared to some things that happened in earlier seasons that were very very very strong.  Their performance was certainly beautifully rendered, I'll give you that...

Monday, July 15, 2019

It's been half a month...sorry!

Let's see here...

My new mechanical keyboard
Is a joy to type on.  For reference, it's a Pink Filco Majestouch 2 with cherry MX 'brown' switches and it looks just beautiful.  I've really gotten used to the feeling of the keys and there's definitely this feeling of tactile satisfaction that just....still makes me just want to press on the keys randomly every once in a while.  The Razer Basilisk has been working out pretty well too -- I think the only thing I wish I could do is configure the media keys to respond or not respond to certain apps (too often it tries to control a youtube video in chrome or whatever instead of foobar running in the background) but it's not a huge deal.  Having a modifier click + mouse wheel as volume adjustment is way more useful than I would have thought -- really glad I decided to map that combo.

Dear Toki
Is the game I ended up putting out for Friendship Jam and people seem to have enjoyed it!  It's a short text-based game about writing letters to reconnect to a long-lost friend and you can play it here.

pCloud as a replacement for Dropbox
Has more or less been working OK, though I've found that the automatic syncing function feels quite a bit slower than directly working with the pCloud drive network-mapped folder.  That might warrant some changes in how I organize things and what files/folders I'm choosing to make available offline, but I'm going to have to do some experimentation to know for sure.  It could be that I always grab things from pCloud Drive (?? not sure if that will work well for mapping my desktop folder to it) but use the make available offline option...

Risk of Rain 2
Has continued to be pretty enjoyable as I just continue to do random runs on Monsoon difficulty.  I've actually just unlocked two new items -- the guilliotine and the royal capacitor, both of which are actually very very good items, so that may actually have an impact on my runs moving forward.

Puyo Puyo / Tetris
I've gotten slightly better at Puyo, but most of my random practice has actually been maintaining 4-wide combos in Tetris, which has just been...a fun little mindless thing to practice every now and then.

Dance stuff
I'll be teaching a styling workshop this Saturday (come out to the GCC and join us!) and am also continuing to put things together for JaSmix next month (woo!)

Life
Overall is continuing to go pretty well these days.  I had a lot of things that I felt like I needed to take care of these past couple of weeks, yet I also managed to take care of a lot/most of them, I feel like.  I had a couple of music commissions to work through, for example, and I knocked them out extremely quickly (being able to work fast is really a blessing).  Even taking care of a bunch of random adulting stuff like new insurance plans, replacing car air filters, blahblahblahblah.......

Cooking
I'm somewhat inspired to try shui zhu yu yet again (lol) by a recent visit to a sichuan restaurant (I want to try and do better than them), but actually my most recent cooking experiment has been sous vide BBQ pork ribs cooked for 36 hours which actually turned out pretty great!  I made them a bit on the salty side because I used a bit more dry rub than recommended in the recipe (oops) but they were very tender at 145 degrees and weren't really a ton of work either.  Definitely something I'd endeavor to try again.

Kiki
I thought about Kiki a lot last week.  I still love her deeply, that is plain as day to me.  Though it's a bit sad, I think it's also a bit of a relief.  That that aspect of me perhaps may never change.  When something was once so important to you, that you can't help but keep it close to you, even if you didn't try at all.

Space Alert
I took a new crew out to The Deep for a try at some sessions of Space Alert this past weekend, to a surprising great success!  As usual I was the acting captain on our Sitting-Duck class ship, along with our chief engineer who had flown a couple missions out to The Deep in the past; the other two were newbie cadets straight out of the academy and we had to show them the ropes and bring them up to speed...I probably ended up barking out a bunch of orders to them during our simulation missions, but they had good instincts, at least for rookies -- they communicated their actions more clearly than my previous squad had, and they even shot some extra laser charges towards the end of the mission just in case.

I woke up in the cloning vat two days after and came to the realization that our first live mission had failed.  Unsurprising, but I still grimaced when I looked at the black box recording and realized what had happened -- in the heat of the action, both of our rookies had tripped -- one was trying to get port side and slammed right into the firing console for the main laser before picking herself up and limping the rest of the way.  I reprimanded them a bit afterwards, but one of them had managed to fix a fissure on that side of the ship with the battlebots and interceptors, so I admitted I had to give them some credit.

We ended up having 3 successful missions into The Deep, one with only a single scratch on our armor by a grazing attack, no less, making it my most successful new crew yet.  We even tried our luck at one of the longer missions out by the nebula, though as quickly as we moved, it wasn't quite enough to handle the constant barrage of threats.

Still, I had to count my blessings after it was all over.  Thinking on the missions also made me question the tools I bring with me on every mission -- I've always known how to work the pulse cannon better than anyone; if you've got an extra fuse and know where to poke the console, you can overload the safety threshold on the phase capacitor and extend the range out to match that of the other laser cannons.  But lately I've been wondering if I should perhaps pack my Special Ops equipment instead, or maybe a crescent wrench that I could use to jury-rig the rocket launcher like ol Yoshiko used to.  I'll have to think on it, for sure...

Saturday, June 29, 2019

A busy week...

I'm heads down in the middle of work to try and finish something for Friendship Jam, which ends on Monday!  I started off in Unity, but I'm trying to make a text-based game around letter-writing, so I tried out Twine to see if it would be a better fit.  I liked the idea of just having the game function directly in html browserland, but the Twine flow wasn't quite what I wanted, so I decided to just jank up my own Javascript/JQuery code to do it, and it's working fairly well!  I also used the tool at https://www.calligraphr.com to make a couple of handwriting fonts for the game, so my handwriting is actually in the game now as fonts, yay!  That could actually be something to apply to my blog at some point, perhaps. (?)

I've been alternatively sleeping really late and catching up as I try to work on both the writing and code for the game...Thursday night I was super dead for example so I slept for 12.5 glorious hours, which was quite refreshing.  Pretty amazing how much better I felt after that...

I was Sayuri yesterday for a brief bit!  It has been quite a long time, but I think it was nice to remember some things about it.

Other than that, actually was dealing with a number of computer-related things in the past two weeks, as I got a new work laptop (to replace the old one they gave me for my temp job).  This is probably going to be my work laptop for some time, so I wanted to take the opportunity to set up everything -- including a bootcamp partition and all.  Bootcamp assistant was pretty much flat out kaput because it didn't work correctly with the corporate software update server, so I had to manage the partitioning process myself.  I also wasn't able to setup win server on it as the installers for both WS2012 and WS2016 failed, but I WAS able to setup win10, so that's that.

I learned some other things like about how the default display setting on the new MBPs is actually a non-native resolution (!) and how gamma calibration images usually don't display properly in browsers and need to be opened in some other app (which explains a lot).  Gamma calibration seems to be getting harder and harder on the OSX platform as more and more features seem to muck around with it...this time I had to actually download a linear color profile in order to calibrate correctly.  My software gamma calibration tools of choice at the moment are QuickGamma for Win and SuperCal for OSX.

Dropbox silently instated a 3-device limit on their free service (different OSes also count as different devices) and that was no longer really going to work out super well for me, so I've made the switch over to using pCloud, which seems to be working just fine so far.

We finally secured our Aug 17th date for JaSmix!  Look forward to some announcements about that soon.

Anyhow, back to trying to write more of this story...looking forward to relaxing a bit next week.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Sometimes I feel like if I act the way I once did, then things would go back to how they used to.  It's not true, of course, but that doesn't stop me from trying anyways.

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Feeling a bit stressed, it seems, but I guess that makes sense given the things that I need to try and get done.  What's a little concerning is the amount of "latent" stress that seems to be bubbling around manifesting itself in nonsensical stress dreams and such.  But I'll do my best to be productive, then relax too.  It's gonna be ok I think!  Because I can get a lot done when I try.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

I'll believe in "forever"

even if I know it doesn't exist

Things are going pretty ok -- I'm writing this at FNW before DJing, so I guess it'll be a bit of a scattered post, haha...it's still really warm in here =(  Thank goodness that killer heat wave died down a bit at least...

Busy weekend for me, with DJing, a friend's wedding, a birthday, etc.  Nothing super stressful, just a lot to keep track of in my mind, it feels like.
On Monday my contract gig becomes a fulltime thing, woo!  It's not a world of difference or anything, just means I know what I'll be doing past next month haha.

A bunch of things that I need to get done in the coming weeks...

- Two music commissions that I gotta finish in a month or so.
- Friendship game jam! (https://itch.io/jam/friendship-jam)  Organized by npckc, not sure if we will end up getting around to making something for it but it would be nice!  It's a super casual thing so we won't just work super hard like Ludum Dare, but it also goes until the end of the month, so we'll see if we manage something.  I've played some of npckc's works and they really made me smile, especially their more recent games...I don't know if I can really write and/or design something so wholesome but we can certainly try!  Maybe if we use our meowmie power...
- A few birthday letters to write and some other writing projects to do...
- Planning for JaSmix!  Still trying to get everything nailed down...might have to prep a workshop too!  And of course put together the setlist.
- Should probably upload All in a Day's Work 4 to NetEase...
- Have a bit of cleaning and such that I should probably do...

You know, now that I've written it out, that all doesn't actually seem like that much, especially not that much that needs to get done very soon.  So I guess it's mainly just this weekend that I need to get through, haha.

I feel...OK with my connect with the past right now.  I'm not feeling in pain with it, but not feeling super great about it either.  But I am writing to Kiki, and thought of her quite a few times this past week.  I talked with someone on Wednesday who really made me think of her a lot, actually.  Kiki seems really distant, perhaps even more distant than ever now that I don't just think of her regularly.  But I do still think of her, and that distance doesn't feel painful...

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DJing went well, though somehow ended up being a bit more stressful than I expected.  There are just a bunch of things to juggle between being paranoid about volume balance, announcing songs, and checking to make sure things are running on time.  I probably played more songs than anyone else has ever played at FNW -- a full 12 songs during each set -- so I knew I had to keep things moving along.  We made it in time, though!  Yet another thing that becomes possible when being vigilant about editing songs for length...

The foobar2000 live display worked just fine, though of course FNW doesn't really have a place to put it that would be super ideal, but people seemed to think it was cool and they did end up using it, so that's nice.  Really that was more of a test run though, now that I know it all works properly I can use that in case I ever get to use a projector to have it super obvious and visible to everyone.  I know there was a lot of feedback at the last JaSmix event to have setlists up and the live-updating playlist would be my solution of being able to do that yet also being able to change things up on the fly if needed.

I realized as we were going through my setlist that I could stand to pay better attention to tempos as I'm putting together the sets.  I think about tempos carefully as I'm editing individual songs but I noticed that I could have done a better job of making sure that the faster rotary waltzes were labeled as such and were in later sets.  It's something that's easy to take for granted as an experienced dancer but I think that sort of thing is still worth considering.


Monday, June 10, 2019

foobar2000, peripherals, and Goodnight Meowmie

Let's see here...the first major thing I have to write about is foobar2000!!!

I'm perhaps ages late to the party (?), but I've finally taken the plunge and switched from using iTunes to foobar2000!  This was not a decision I took lightly, but I decided to pull the trigger after working with foobar2k and considering the pros and cons, and I've been pretty satisfied so far!

Foobar2000 is a free windows-based audio player that is known for many for its customizability, advanced features, modular design, and basically being the dream of anyone who is not scared of complexity and wants to really have their music player function the way THEY want.  It's also available for OSX as of ~1.5 years ago, though I have not tested that build yet.

Perhaps more importantly, foobar2000 now (as of ~a year ago I think) has a mobile client, available for all of iOS/Android/WindowsPhone.  This is key as one of the primary things tying me to iTunes has always been the fact that my ecosystem includes a lovely iPhone SE running iOS and of course I'd really like to have my music readily available on that.

Right, so let's first talk about the things I'm losing during the move to fb2k:
First off, syncing music to iOS is a bit more involved.  Unfortunately, foobar2000 has no way of directly interfacing with the iOS media library, so instead you write music to the foobar2000 app's sandbox and only fb2k can access it.  There is no "automatic" way to do this, but fortunately the iOS fb2k app includes an FTP server that you can use to transfer files via FTP.  This is as far as I can tell the best way to transfer music to fb2k mobile as you can't access the foobar2000 app sandbox directly (without jailbreaking your phone).

Of course there's no built-in "sync management" like there is with iTunes, so instead I first use foobar_onewaysync to copy out the relevant playlists (and their associated music files) to a temporary directory, then use WinSCP to mirror that on the iPhone over FTP.  So like I said, this is "a bit more involved", but now that I have that flow set up it's as simple as running those two commands and waiting for them to complete.

Like with all things in foobar2000, I have so much more =confidence= in what is happening here with the sync.  There would be all kinds of uncommon weird annoyances back when iTunes was in the picture -- you'd find it transferring old files again and again (why?), you'd find that certain songs were missing and showed up on the device but weren't actually playable (why?), you'd find that every time you did a sync one of your playlists mysteriously duplicated itself (why?).  I think a recurring theme so far with foobar2000 is that you have to spend some effort setting up your workflow for doing certain things, but once you do, it Just Works.

The REAL main thing I'm losing during the move to fb2k is actually a significant one: it's bluetooth media browsing via the AVRCP protocol.  In other words, browsing music via my car's on-board display (or through the controls on the steering wheel).  I can still trigger playback and track skips via bluetooth, but any attempts to browse the tracks/playlists/etc from my car's bluetooth interface will result in it looking at the native iOS music library, which is now empty (as all of the music is in foobar2000).  This is actually a pretty major loss as it means that I can't really fire up a music playlist in my car unless I'm parked or stopped for a good minute, as I have to actually do that browsing on my phone itself.

As far as I can tell there's no real way around this.  foobar2000 used to have an iPod management module but that is looooooooong defunct and iOS tends to be very closed off in terms of these sorts of things anyways.  The only way I could really get this functionality back would be to bring iTunes back into the picture, and then use iOS music as my mobile app while still using foobar2000 as my desktop/laptop music player.  We'll see if it comes to that, but I don't think it will.  foobar2000 mobile is a better media player anyhow, and I don't see an efficient way to sync from foobar2000->through itunes->to the iOS device for anything more than maybe a single playlist.

That being said, what I'm =gaining= in the transition to foobar2000 feels well worth the loss so far:
- A =working= ReplayGain implementation!  I now use replaygain to play music at adjusted volumes for normalized listening.  iTunes has a proprietary "Sound Check" feature that is supposed to do this but completely fails on VBR-encoded files.  This is super useful for social dance DJing in particular as having normalized (normalized as in equal perceived loudness, not as in peaking at 0dB) volumes is pretty important.
- I've customized my UI to include a clickable waveform display that shows the current song progress and can be clicked to seek to any point in the song.  Super useful for visually seeking to a given point in the song!
- The ability to work with ID3 tags and file metadata in a very fully-featured and rich way.  Want to convert all ID3 tags to ID3v2.3?  Want to batch-append a genre or grouping tag to 500 songs?  fb2k can do it all!
- The ability to ensure that your media library's files are organized correctly and robustly.  iTunes of course attempted to do this automatically, but it wasn't customizable at all and there were a lot of times when it would come up with filenames and/or paths that seemed a little....off.  fb2k gives you the option to organize your paths however you want and will give you a preview of what files need to be moved where before actually reorganizing everything.

Anyhow, that's sort of been an ongoing pet project of mine, but I'm basically done with the switch now and have been enjoying not only the new functionality but most of all the peace of mind and robustness that fb2k offers.

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Alongside that big customization project, I also spent quite a while looking at mechanical keyboards and finally decided to get myself a pink Filco Majestouch 2!!!  I first started thinking about buying a new keyboard when I saw the Razer Huntsman Quartz Pink edition, but after some research I figured that I'd probably be much happier with a less "consumer-y" brand and decided on the Majestouch 2.


Just look at that beauty!  It's possible I might replace the keycap color scheme with something a little more exciting in the future, but I'm happy to just try going with the all-pink for now.  I decided on Cherry MX 'brown' switches, as I'm not a huge fan of the infamous clickety-clackity noises of the blues, and I'd still like some tactile feedback (so not going with the reds).  I also decided to go with a "TenKeyLess" size -- you'll notice that it has the arrow keys and home/end/printscreen/scrolllock/etc but no numpad.  Having full arrow keys around I think is still very useful and necessary but I think I can actually live without a numpad as there are only really a few cases where I really use it and I think the prospect of having that additional desk space freed up (and having the mouse be closer to the keys) is pretty exciting.  (if I REALLY miss the numpad I could always buy a standalone numpad, but I get the feeling I really won't miss it that much)

Anyways, that should theoretically arrive in a couple days -- super exciting!!!

I've also already gone ahead and got a Quartz Pink Razer Basilisk to go along with it:


Unfortunately for getting an aesthetically-pleasing pink mouse there are wayyy fewer options than keyboards, so it was pretty much between this and the pink Razer Lancehead (which has a symmetrical design), or perhaps a pink Zowie mouse, but that seemed to both look worse and have a worse scroll wheel/etc. (despite being lighter/etc).  Razer's Synapse software is.....a bit shady to say the least, but unfortunately that is an evil I ended up having to swallow for now.

On the plus side, the mouse itself is working great.  I was previously running a Logitech MX Revolution and this mouse feels more sensitive/smoothly responsive, and the control mapping is actually a step up as well.  There's an optional thumb trigger (they give you two different sizes!) that you can use as a modifier to give yourself a whole other set of mappings, so for example thumbswitch + mouse wheel up increases my volume, thumbswitch + mouse middle click triggers a pause/play in whatever media player is open, etc.  The media controls also work better than that of Logitech's -- no annoying onscreen display and it is also pretty intelligent about looking for media players to send the command to.  I miss having the scroll wheel free-spin function, but I'm fine living without it to be honest.

No bluetooth version so I'm back to having a cord, but I don't actually find myself minding that too much either.  Plus, it's got two multicolored lights (one in the scroll wheel and one on the logo display) and I have them set up to react to whatever audio is playing from my computer, which is pretty spiffy as well.  If I wanted I could have gotten a keyboard that also has fancy backlighting (basically the corresponding Razer model) but I really didn't consider that a priority, so just the mouse lights will have to do.

Oh, related to mice: I downloaded Smooze for OSX and am happily using it for one thing and one thing only: disabling scroll wheel acceleration!  I'm not super against scroll wheel acceleration in theory, but in practice the way OSX handles scroll wheel acceleration for mouse has just never seemed to be sensible for any mouse I've used (maybe it's different for an actual apple mouse).  Now that I've completely disabled it, I can go back to sensible scrolling, yay!!!

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In other news, our game Goodnight Meowmie has gotten quite a lot of attention since I posted it on itch.io, which is really great to see, especially because I feel like this is the most significant game I've ever worked on.  It's gotten about 2.5k views on itch since I threw it up there, which is pretty amazing.  It's also been really cool watching people's video playthroughs of it on youtube, seeing their reactions and interpretations of the game.  It really makes me feel like we did something worthwhile, that we were able to reach out to people and have them listen to our story, and perhaps take it to heart.

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In other other news, I'll be DJing at Friday Night Waltz this Friday!  Be sure to come out if you're in the area, it's gonna be great!

Life has actually been going pretty fantastically lately -- this weekend was a lot of fun, between FNW, spending time with good friends, and just being in a good place.  I feel as if I'm not losing my attachment with the past because of it either.  Things are really good right now.

Monday, June 3, 2019

I still love you.  Of course.  Even the things you don't remember, you never forget.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

I filed my first DMCA takedown notice today...was much easier than I expected it to be.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Fanime 2019 report, etc.

I guess I may as well try to be good about linking to previous posts...here is Fanime 2018.


Blogging just to say "blahblahblah happened" and reporting on it is actually strangely exciting.  Reminds me of good old times...let's get into it!

As I mentioned earlier, I didn't have much lined up for Fanime this year and I had to leave early on Sunday to go teach private lessons (and also left Friday night to go to dance) so I wasn't even there for all that long anyhow.

Arcade gaming -- seemed pretty cool this year, but I didn't really have the time nor desire to really play a lot.  Arcade machines were set up as free play this year which is cool but may have contributed to long lines and/or the machines always being occupied at any given time and I really did not feel like trying to wait for a machine to open up.  That said I did hop on TGM3 for a bit, though not as much as I normally would because A) the sticks and controls felt a bit weird which threw me off a bit and B) I'm really not used to playing on a cab so just the actual size and style of the CRT display kind of throws me for a loop visually.  It was a different setup than the old one (my user data wasn't there) so I created a new account...was initially thinking that maybe I'd play until I got a promotional exam or something, but it became pretty clear that I really wasn't able to perform well on that cab at all, so I stopped.  Unfortunate really, but maybe for the best as I didn't have that sort of time to throw around anyways.
I also saw somebody playing 3rd Strike and he wasn't button mashing so I hopped on and played a bunch of friendlies with him!  They were pretty fun matches!  Despite my rust, I took most of them =O  He was a Hugo player, so a relatively unfamiliar matchup for me and though I had some trouble recognizing certain mixups like dash -> SPD or his running command throw, I think the hardest part was knowing what buttons to press in neutral because Hugo has such good long ranged pokes that beat out a lot of moves from afar.  He switched up to Makoto for a couple games as well and then back to Hugo and finally took one, after which I switched to Ken and played a few more before somebody else asked to play and I hopped out.  Good times.

Didn't get to hop on either (there were 2!) of the Bishi Bashi games unfortunately -- again, just didn't have the time or willingness, since I already had other gaming plans, etc. and people were already playing.  I guess these sorts of things are great for those times when you go to con early Friday or whatever and it's super not crowded.  I'll have to remember that for next time, that going on Friday during the day is actually probably a great idea to get all the Artist Alley stuff/etc done with since you want to go through those when it's less crowded, then you can do photo posing and all that when more people are around...

Went to one panel this year, Queerness and Magical Girls, which was great!  It also reminded me of just how awesome Madoka was, haha, but also had a lot of good content and great things to think about.  Yay~

We went to IPOH for roti, yay~

For my own gaming, I brought my laptop complete with Melee setup and a small group of us sat down to play some friendlies.  There ended up being 4 of us so I decided we should try out the epic "Dual 1v1" mode of 20XX where you play two simultaneous 1v1 matches (that can't interact with each other!) on the same stage, then the winners of both face off in a 2-stock match.  It was pretty hilarious, especially since having both matches going on in the same space was super visually distracting, and after one match finishes the victor is free to just spam tech skill as much as they want in an attempt to distract the other match, and do things like charge f-smashes, do rolls to confuse techchases, and general other shenanigans.  We played a few doubles matches as well -- 2v2 is not something I play very often (well, not that singles is either), but I knew that more than anything it's important to just look out to fish for kills whenever one of them is at high %.  That's one of the great strengths of Fox in a 2v2, his upsmash is just such a great quick kill option that can be thrown out whenever opportune, and it doesn't require the precision of a tipper marth fsmash or something like that.

Watched one or two of my friends perform at Fanimaid Live, so cool and so good!  Woo~

Also played around with some Puyo Puyo Tetris as well as Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes with another friend, which was great!

Artists' Alley and Dealer's Hall: Went through, bought some Journey pins and a necklace from Stephanie Kao (already have some of her prints!) -- only thing I bought all con, but it's nice to have a Journey necklace!  You know, to go along with my Journey messenger bags and Journey lanyard and Journey phone charms as I'm wearing my Journey cosplay lol.  Didn't make it all the way around Dealer's Hall (again, didn't really have the time to spare) but didn't quite care either.

I did make sure to spend at least some time going around with my hood/mask on, which surprisingly was more comfortable than I remembered for some reason.  I also discovered that the trick for photos is to just find a good spot somewhere in the main hallway (not blocking traffic) to just sprawl out and do a meditating pose -- then a ton of people just start taking photos as they pass by.  So I'm glad I got a chance to do that before leaving con for good.  I unfortunately (this always seems to happen) didn't actually get any photos of myself personally, but also didn't feel too bad about that considering I didn't have a ton of free time.

Overall a chill con as expected, though Saturday was quite a long day still.  No B&W ball this year since I had to go teach private lessons and dance with the Stanford kids, so a bit of a shame, but honestly I wouldn't have been able to handle that much dancing (let alone social energy) this weekend anyways.  But yeah, overall pretty satisfied with how things went.

Speaking of dance, that went well too.  Private lessons are always a challenge trying to really drill down and distill useful practical knowledge in a short timeframe, but they're fun and they also really push my own understanding of dance as well, so great all around.

For now in the aftermath of the weekend I'm just taking it easy I guess.  I didn't do that much today besides spend some time cleaning up and trying to work on All in a Day's Work 4.  Oh right, and I also was notified of some website blatantly stealing one of our games, sigh.  DRM sucks and all until you are an indie game dev where it's actually quite easy for people to steal your games.  It sucks because I've already implemented a crude site-lock for these games but unfortunately this site simply embeds the itch.io-hosted html5 index.html file in an iframe, so there's not that much of a good way to prevent it.  I can at least make their lives harder if the itch.io folks will maybe let me change the urls around by deleting old builds, but we'll see.  In the end, this kind of stuff is always an arms race and if people REALLY want to steal your stuff, there isn't that much you can do to stop them as an individual unless you want things to get hairy.  Beh.  Well, if I find myself with some extra time, maybe I'll look into more creative solutions, involving working around Same-Origin Policy blahblahblah.  But it might not be super doable if I also want to support itch.io.  Bleh.

But anyhoo, All in a Day's Work 4 wil be my main project moving forward for the week I'm sure.  Don't think there will be a postmortem for Inflate Me to the Moon (the only thing I'd really talk about is the SPC-style music).  There is still a fair bit of work left for All in a Day's Work 4 though.  I've gotten the album design all done at least, which is great, and I =thought= I had the tracklist done, but then I remembered that there are actually a bunch of OHC entries I did after I stopped making my "Monthlies" series where they were WIPs or other projects, so they've never been formally released.  Things like the WIP version of "Convergence", or "Song of the Sea", or even some Mysterious Space songs.  And some of those are actually pretty great!  So I had to try and make some room in the tracklist for those.  In the end I decided to cut out a few of the more recent songs and just save them for All in a Day's Work 5, because there are just too many songs that I want to put into these albums!  (figures, since it's been soooo long since All in a Day's Work 4)  Anyways, I still have to do the liner notes for all that and make =sure= that I've included all the tracks I want in the order that I want, so that'll be my main thing for the coming week....though I am also very overdue for some letter writing time.

Let's hope we can have a good week this coming week.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

I guess, let that be a lesson to myself what the consequences are when I am not doing what I know is best.  I feel sort of weird now, and I can't help but think it's because of some "mistakes" I made.  But all is well, I imagine.


Well, I'm a bit overdue for some textual decompression it seems, so let's see here...



Fanime is this weekend!  As with last year things are probably going to be looking pretty chill for me.  A few friends of mine will either be busy or MIA but I'll still have company to look out for I'm sure.  Last time I had both the Joe Hisaishi concert as well as aivisura's performance that I attended, but I don't really have any sort of thing that I'm planning for this year quite honestly.  Here's the rundown and bucket list:

- Friday I might not even stop by, if I do it'll be to quickly search through Swap Meet for some cute stationery or whatever.  I might even head to stanford to dance with the kids over there.
- Saturday I'll be there for the whole day!
- Sunday I need to leave early to go teach at the GCC dance yay

- Rumor has it that TGM3 will be at con again this year!  I plan to get in quite a good number of runs in if possible, but I probably don't want to just sit there and grind either, best to take breaks.
- 3rd strike will be there as well!  Could mess around but only if there are not already people playing b/c i don't wanna deal with that.
- Bishi Bashi will be there too, woohoo!  apparently it's Hyper Bishi Bashi??  Which is an older version than "The*BishiBashi" which was there in the past??
- I'll have my laptop and gamecube controllers for some Faster Melee action!  Will be meeting up with a friend to play, but I'm sure I could also just bring my portable setup to the existing melee setups and ask if anybody wants to play friendlies.
- I'll be bringing Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes manuals too, in case we have time to defuse some bombs.
- We shall eat Roti at IPOH!  Because roti is awesome
- Apparently Aya Hirano is a guest of honor this year, that's actually pretty fantastic!  Doesn't really affect me, but that's still cool.
- No speed dating, b&w ball, gatherings, etc for me.  Did I mention I'm taking it easy?  I'm down to just hang out, but I guess I should maybe tuck my mask+hood into my bag and maybe make a round or two around the main halls if anybody wants to take photos
- I'll be wearing my red journey outfit again, if you're there you'll be able to spot me for sure!
- Artists Alley and dealer's hall whenever, as always.  I guess these are the things that are nice to do early in the morning or even on Friday before they get too crowded, but eh whatever!



I finished my work on the All in a Day's Work 4 album design:


So I've been trying to get that album ready for release!  I've picked out the track listing (unless I make something else awesome tonight for OHC), but I still have to decide the final song order, write up all the liner notes, and everything like that.



Dance stuff...as mentioned earlier, I'll be teaching this sunday, and I'm also starting to put together the preliminary plans for our annual Summer JaSmix, so be sure to stay tuned for that!



Gumbo has been my latest pet cooking project, though I utterly failed the first time I tried, lol.  Kind of interesting, I'm still not 100% keen on where exactly all the flavor comes from, but I guess maybe it really is just from the roux?  My next attempt is actually going to be with a dry roux since I don't wanna deal with stirring over low heat for an hour...



I think that's about it?  Nice to have a long weekend, it'll be welcome for sure.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

I've always wondered why iTunes' "Sound Check" feature (basically their implementation of replaygain) was spotty at times...turns out it completely fails to perform any sort of volume analysis on VBR (variable bitrate)-encoded files.

I used to prefer 320kbps CBR for my mp3 files but I've switched to downloading VBR from Bandcamp (I think this is -V 0 or -V 1, something like 240kbps) in an attempt to save on some disk space.

What really confuses me is that I haven't found anyone reporting this issue at all even though it's plain as day if you know what to look for.  It's not a huge deal for me as I rarely enable this feature, but I use it when playing music for dances......nice to know that it actually will only work half of the time, sigh.  Yet another argument for pre-editing every single audio file that I use for dances.  I may as well just create an FL Studio project with my entire setlist in advance at this point lol

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The past has been tugging at my sleeve a bit more these past few days.  Perhaps it's the uncertainty of the future that reminds me that the past, also, is "uncertain".  It is not something to be taken for granted, lest it fade away.


Of course, in the end, everything fades away, doesn't it?  But it is necessary for me to strive for "forever".  A pursuit of something unattainable...yet, worthwhile in its own.  As they say, it's about the journey, not the destination...especially when the destination does not exist.  But maybe even when that destination does not exist, maybe I will still find myself closer to it in the end.

I'll remember.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Friday, May 10, 2019

Rock the House

Made a banger of a tune last night, hot dang -- worked for 5 extra hours on my OHC entry, will be played at tonight's Big Dance.  Last time that I did a last-minute composition for Big Dance was when I wrote Zodiac Procession two years ago.  It hasn't been quite a yearly thing, but it's definitely a pretty good excuse to try making dance music.

Big Dance 2019 will be my 7th all-nighter and 9th big dance (last year's post).  Should be fun, aiming to chill and take it easy for the most part and try to actually interact with everyone instead of having the ubiquitous "oh yeah we were in the same room for 9 hours but actually never danced together oops".  Will bring all the requisite supplies, including insoles (which I actually brought last year but couldn't find -_-), glowsticks, melee, and such.  Hit me up if you want to talk about dance or work on things since, ya know, we gotta do =something= to fill up those hours.

Had a dream last night that I was supposed to perform with Decadance at VBall and was running late......orz  I don't think I've ever had stress dreams about Deca before, but you know, if this is the replacement for Marching Band stress dreams, I'LL TAKE IT!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Work work work

I get (hopefully) better and better at the process each time, but doing all of the legwork to really finish off each of these Ludum Dare games and get them into a state where I say "I'm finished!" is really a long and arduous journey no matter how you slice it.  There are just so many individual things to keep track of and get done, it's a miracle that I can manage it all, but I guess that has always been a strength of mine.

Here is roughly what the task list looks like:

GAME
- Make improvements, bugfixes, and feature additions to the game itself (this could take weeks, depending on the amount of content to add)
- Port the game to mobile, including adding touch controls, alternative UI, etc.
- Make builds for WebGL, iOS, Android, test on device and fix inevitable bugs

MEDIA
- Create set of gameplay screenshots
- Create an animated gif of gameplay
- Record 30-second gameplay trailer, upload to youtube
- Use Avisynth and Me-GUI to resize and letterbox gameplay trailer to correct sizings for iOS app previews
- Record full game playthrough, upload to youtube, with appropriate description and tags
- Create app icon
- Batch resize screenshots for different iOS resolutions

PUBLISH
- Write shared game description
- Create page on ddrkirby.com, link from games and index pages
- Create page for the compo version on ddrkirby.com too
- Create page on cocoamoss.com, link from index page
- Create iOS app store page, upload screenshots (multiple resolutions), app previews (multiple resolutions), etc.
- Create Google Play store listing, upload screenshots, link to youtube video, etc.
- Create itch.io page, with game description, screenshots, link to trailer, etc.
- Post on Facebook, Twitter, Facebook Page, Discord, Slack...
- Write up post-mortem report...


MUSIC
- Fix up any mixing/mastering/etc in the music, re-render as necessary
- Render album versions of each song (loop twice and then fadeout)
- Create album artwork
- Convert all songs to FLAC, upload all to Bandcamp including both album versions and seamless loop versions
- Fill out bandcamp description, with links to game, Patreon credits, genre tags, etc.  This also includes looking at my project files to see the estimated work time per track.
- Link to bandcamp album from website
- Use After Effects to render visualized soundtrack video for streaming on Youtube -- upload to youtube with appropriate description
- Upload soundtrack to Soundcloud, NetEase cloud music as well...post timestamped comments to soundcloud for the beginning of each track...
- Create paid Patreon post linking to soundtrack download, promote soundtrack on social media too...

This is why when I do Ludum Dare you usually don't actually hear about the game itself until at least a few weeks afterwards...it's because I'm shoulder-deep in the middle of all these tasks...  some of these can be automated to =some= extent and it helps that I've got templates for a lot of this stuff as well as 3 different machines so I can literally just sit down and fire off builds for all 3 platforms at once, but in the end there is just a plain lot of STUFF no matter how you tackle it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

30th Bday, prep for Ludum Dare 44

This month is definitely a bit of a rush...after coming back from the Asia trip, I had but a short time to catch my breath and then it was onto the celebration of my 30th.  I had better write about that now I guess?

This was quite definitely the best birthday I've ever had.  Of course, it also tends to sometimes fall around the time of the spring Ludum Dare event, so sometimes the timing is weird, but even without taking that into consideration, this was by far the best it's ever been.

I wrote in 2012 that "birthdays are a reminder of how little attention people put into me and how often I can be taken for granted, as well as a reminder of the imbalances in my relationships with other people." and that sentiment was definitely an honest one at the time.  Whether these perceived imbalances were ignorantly self-inflicted or through no fault of my own is up for debate, but I definitely had not found the types of social connections that I had truly desired, and would not until the coming years (though I had at the least gotten a lot closer than before).  It was because of this (along with my own knee-jerk reactions to oppose social trends) that I originally started to deactivate my Facebook account every time my birthday rolled around -- it left me with a disgusting feeling really, that horde of people who now suddenly bothered enough to type a meaningless message to me, but only because of an automated Facebook reminder.  Realizing that that automated birthday reminder had spurred them onto more action than anything else of our relationship during the 364 other days of the year was a terrible thought.  Of course, the family celebrations didn't really help, as usually they feel like little more than rituals for their benefit and not mine (still working on that one -- but at least I have gotten them to start picking from my wishlist so I don't also leave with wholly impractical gifts).

Yet somehow after 30 years I managed to get together a great group of people whom I not only cared about but who also cared about me.  It was pretty astounding when I thought about it, I really was struck by the group that surrounded me that day and I think that day may ought to really serve as a sort of marker for myself in my life.  I planned some great activities, we had a lot of fun, and I had great help as well.  From one friend helping with tea, another helping with food preparation, another helping with miscellaneous logistics, it was truly amazing to finally have gotten together such dependable people.  Just read that post from 2012 that I linked -- what a difference!

Of course, we also totally rocked the Roosevelt Escape Room -- great success, and I felt quite proud of the team.  I think we had a great mix of both people who tried to think very quickly on their feet (me) and people who tried to be more methodic and careful (i.e. catching everyone else's mistakes).

And with that, all those people sending me short messages, somehow didn't really feel so bad anymore.

Of course, that being over, it's right into the next thing...Ludum Dare 44 is coming up this weekend!  I've been doing a bunch of prep, including updating to Unity 2019, testing some things to make sure they still work, and also setting up and testing some things for itch.io!  itch.io is sort of like the "Bandcamp of game distribution" and I've always been a fan of them and the developers that gather on their platform despite not having used them.

I do plan on trying to copy over all of our existing games over to itch, but it looks like that might (???) have to wait until after the dust from LD44 settles, as most of our recent games are actually domain-locked to avoid nasty people coming and stealing them onto their own sites.  I've added a rule to allow for itch.io hosting and tested that all to make sure it works, but I still have to go about recompiling all of the old games (probably also updating them to Unity 2019, hopefully not breaking anything in the process?), and setting up each of the project pages, etc etc etc. and that is something I just don't have the time for right now.  But I am at least set up to upload our LD44 entry onto itch.  Part of the reason I wanted to set up itch.io in the first place is because I think it does great discoverability for LD games, especially since the LD site itself has never been great at that.  (Not to mention, I might want to use itch to distribute Rhythm Quest as well!)

Anyways, Unity 2019 seems to be working well (the itch.io tests also gave me some chances to verify that older games are working fine after the upgrade, which is important since there were some bugs that I had been working around and the workaround are deprecated, so good to know that the root issues were also fixed), and I've updated my unity template project as well as forked it over and made the repo.

Other things I still need to do before LD44:
- Draw some 100x100 pixel art for this month's "Monthlies" album.  I knew this would sneak up on me even before I left for Asia...I was going to try starting this today, but then I got sidetracked by some more of the itch.io stuff and now this blog post...ugh.  Will have to try again tomorrow.  Need to get it done before LD since the end of the month is really soon after LD ends.
- Do the obligatory "I'm in" post on the LD website.
- Laundry!
- (maybe?) upload some more stuff to NetEase since I haven't for a long while
- Do a big grocery run on Friday and get lots of food and snacks :D
- If I have time, there's a boatload of letters I could probably catch up on...but not sure if that will happen =X  maybe will try to at least get to one or two...
- Keep recovering physically and don't get sick...

Things that will NOT get done before LD44:
- I have a famitracker song that I "sort of finished" on the trip to Asia but might try to flesh out (or just call it done and master it).
- Have a music commission on deck (due mid-july)
- Also a remix to do for an arrange album (due august)
- All the itch.io stuff
- Potentially hosting a GCC dance on the 18th, but leaving that up in the air based on what I feel like doing.
- There won't be another full-on JaSmix event for this quarter, but I will host the usual Summer event.  I've already done an initial reachout, now I just need to pick a good date.

Well, on the plus side, I'm somehow still cruising along and handling everything despite having a full-time job.  I do feel like I'm taking care of a lot of things...just keeping on chugging along like I do best.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Beijing/Tokyo/Hakone trip 2019

Aaand we're back!  I was out all last week for a trip to Asia with my best friend and am finally posting about it now.  Since I've been back it's been a quite strange mix of fast and slow, with the days both rushing by quickly yet also seeming to drag on at times.  The flow of time has been really strange for me this week as I'm dealing with some jetlag and some of the strangest sleeping hours I've had in recent history (sleeping from 3-10....PM).  I've had some times when I crashed in the afternoon and set an alarm for one or a couple hours later, only to end up snoozing it a billion times.

I've got Friday off work this week, which is nice, though it also contributes to feeling that the flow of time is weird -- did a week really pass?  I've had what feels like some "extra days", especially after sleeping from 3-10PM and waking up and having so much extra time at night, yet somehow the week still passed by relatively quickly.  Thankfully, I've been able to start catching up on various things, such as putting away all of the things that I bought on the trip and even running some errands including a trip to the DMV (yay..........).  Physically I am still definitely recovering though -- I don't have the strongest constitution and the trip definitely got me a bit sick.

Anyways, enough about all that -- I know you're all here for the photos anyways!  This was a ~10-day trip to Asia, first stopping by Beijing where my friend was visiting family, and then to Tokyo where we met up and stayed with another friend (with a side trip to the Hakone area for hot springs).

I'll admit I'm not usually a huge photo-taker (anymore?) but I tried to be good about snapping some every so often.  Even if I don't actually end up looking at them later, I've found that they're at least good for showing to other people, and for recounting some various things that happened (e.g. for this post itself).  I took more photos than just the ones below, of course, but somehow I'm feeling like it's better to just post the more relevant ones rather than dump a whole bunch at you guys.  Well, let's get to it...



Beijing was like an weird mix of SF and Tokyo, though the smaller and more old-fashioned streets were a bit unique in their own.  Whenever I travel I'm always a little struck by how nice the trees and foliage are, I think it's because the areas I frequent here in California don't really have that much of that.



We saw some stray meowmies, and even got to pet and play with a meowmie at the tea house we went to, which was really nice :3



Sitting and having tea at the teahouse was a pretty cool experience, not really because the tea was amazing (though it was quite nice), but because of the atmosphere.  Time seemed to flow differently, I'm not so sure it was the place itself but more just the circumstances...It's almost never that I just sit around letting time pass by so freely without really a care as to what I need to do next.  Thinking about that was a bit elucidating for me, I think.

Speaking of tea, I used to be super into white tea but currently am pretty into grain-based flavors, like genmaicha and barley or buckwheat tea.




The air quality was actually not too bad, or at least not bad enough to bother me noticeably, though of course I ended up getting a bit sick at some point over the course of the trip (not surprising really, but it wasn't terrible thankfully).  Around the airport area it was quite bad though, enough to bother me -- couldn't tell whether it was just that area or maybe just the construction they were doing in the airport itself.



The food we had was quite tasty!  The mapo tofu and other sichuan-style dishes were really yummy, and the pork belly + mustard greens were really great too, and of course the Peking duck.  It wasn't wholly different from Chinese food back here in CA though, so it's sort of nice knowing that I'm not really missing out on all too much when I'm at home either.



I'm not a huge fan of la zi ji (sichuan style spicy chicken -- which basically just looks like a plate of dried chili peppers), but gotta have it while I'm here right?  Definitely had a lot of sichuan peppercorn numbing flavor...



We spent a day walking around the Summer Palace, which is an imperial garden with a bunch of trees and lakes and really old buildings.  Some parts were nice, others were more crowded with tourists.



The weather was nice for the most part on our trip, but we got hit by one or two unexpected rainy days, which I definitely had not packed for.  Fortunately it worked out OK in terms of the timing and the weather at the Summer Palace was quite nice.



Lots of red and gold and green everywhere -- and all the ceilings had fancy designs like these.



Lots of water rock formations everywhere...



Some pretty flowers.



Some of them looked quite nice!



Lots of these long corridor-like walkways, too.




More flowers...




Gold-colored roofs...




Got to try some candied Bingtanghulu (candied hawthorn).



Lots of extra high bridges over the water too.



Suzhou street, a shopping street with river running through it.



Having some homemade zha jiang mian, a common beijing dish made of noodles topped with ground meat and fermented soybean paste, along with various veggies.



Cow followed us on the trip!  Was borrowing him from a friend to use as a pillow pet.



Of course Hello Kitty shows up in Asia all over the place.  Here she is as some sort of robot in the Beijing airport...



Sometimes the simple food is the best.  This bowl of porridge we got at the airport really hit the spot...



Finally off from Beijing and taking the air to fly to Tokyo!  I noticed that there were all these green-colored areas that we could see from the air, wondered what they were.  Maybe tarps to cover the dirt?



Cow~



It was cold and raining when we landed in Tokyo...luckily our friend was so gracious to meet us at the station with some umbrellas, and they also had a kotatsu at their place :O  We were really in their debt for much of the latter half of our trip...



Tsukemen dipping noodles!  We have them here in the states as well but I don't think I've ever gotten them before.



Putting Little Twin Stars on your product is a surefire way to get me to buy it.  These cookies were yummy~



We were in time to catch the tail end of the Sakuras blooming, though we had missed peak viewing time.  Still, it was nice to finally get to see these famous ephemeral flowers that is such a big deal in Japan's culture.



Potato corn dog!  It's like eating a corn dog and some french fries at the same time...definitely much better than your average corn dog.



While in Tokyo we mainly went around the Harajuku/Shibuya area, filled with a lot of shops and fashion establishments, both upscale malls and more hole-in-the wall places alike.  There were also a bunch of just...very interesting places, including this place with a whole bunch of bath bombs arranged in a mesmerizing display.  It really felt more like an art installation than anything else.  Lots of tourists and foreigners around these areas too, which is unsurprising.



One of the more fun things we got to do was go to Harry hedgehog cafe in Harajuku -- where you get to pet live hedgehogs!!!



They are apparently nocturnal, so a lot of them were kind of just sleeping or dozing around.  They just look like fat hairy blobs!



We had a more active one that we played with a lot.  Here it is drinking some water...they give you some little mealworms to feed to the hedgehogs too :3  So cute...



The other one was sort of just sleeping there for the most part...



You wear gloves to pick them up and play with them!  They were really fun <3



Some more of them just sleeping together in the corner.



Such good product marketing...we of course bought one of these little plushies to take home with us.



Here we are in the top floor of Kiddy Land -- a place I've been to all 3 times I've been to Japan now!  They've got the Sanrio/San-X goods on the top floor of Kiddy Land, as well as other various things on the other floors (Ghibli/Disney/Marvel/Peanuts)



We also got to check out the "Kawaii Monster Cafe", which definitely feels like something you wouldn't see anywhere other than Japan.  It was pretty interesting seeing this end of the broad "kawaii" spectrum.



Sort of a creepy + cute vibe all around.



The food was super interesting, especially this dish, which looks disgusting but actually tasted not too bad.  It was like a sort of beef curry with rice, and the pink frosting-looking thing is some cheese-based sauce.  The mysterious red candy balls are actually quail eggs!!!  Was so impressed by that...



I also got to try some monjayaki for the first time!  It's kind of like okonomiyaki, except with more of a watery broth, so it's more runny.  You spread the raw ingredients around on the grill and then pour in the broth, which sort of thickens as it heats up from the heat.  It ends up looking.......like barf, really.  Not the most appetizing thing, but tastes quite alright despite that, lol.



Some more close up photos of the sakura.



Now just imagine that all of them were still pink lol.



Apparently Sanrio was doing a collaboration with It's Demo, a sort of fashion/convenience store.  This is a beautiful Pochacco design!  The best I've ever seen out of this pup.  Real props to whoever did the designs for this.  It's super refreshing to see that this sort of aesthetic is still going strong over there in Japan, even though it has basically disappeared from the US -- you can only really find these things online now or maybe at Kinokuniya / Maido-type stores, and even then, you don't see such great stuff.

Ah, really, that is one of the greatest things about being over there in Tokyo -- such great aesthetics.  So many pretty people and cute things, great designs and good fashion.  Definitely something I miss every time when I have to leave.



While we were in Hakone we took a side trip to the Petit Prince museum!



Some more sakura at the Little Prince museum.



They had lots of little quaint pretend building setups like this one.



Along with figures of the titular character.



Some japanese explanations of some things from the story.



The fox that the prince befriends by "taming".



A pretty cute place!  It was fun to go through, though also definitely made me a bit sad.



Last time we stayed at a ryokan we had traditional new year's food (Osechi ryori) which was....sort of weird.  This time we had more of a standard kaiseki dinner which was much more tasty!  Had so many different foods (more than what is in this photo, this is just the first set), including some really fatty steak, sushi, pickles and rice, sake, fish, miso soup with clams, soba noodles, tofu, and more.



Window leading out to the balcony of our room.



Private bath out on the balcony of our room, which had a view overlooking the river.  Of course, I couldn't really take a photo of the public baths for.....obvious reasons.



Same window, in daylight this time.



More awesome food, this time for breakfast.  Don't know if I've ever had such a fully-featured breakfast lol, goodness.  Had everything from soba, grilled fish, miso dengaku egglant, tamagoyaki, fruits, more rice and pickles, sushi, ...



Nice aesthetic in the other room...



We decided to write something sort of silly in the guestbook lol.



The rest of the Hakone area was very pretty, lots of river scenery with many trees growing all over the hillsides.



We even got to see a glimpse of Mt. Fuji in the distance while we were taking the train back to Tokyo (didn't notice until the group of westerners on the car all stood up and started snapping a whole bunch of photos omg)



Closer look at the Sanrio x It's Demo collaboration -- ended up going there and buying a keychain :)



Finally made it to Takeshita Dori, the sort of "main" fashion street in Harajuku!  It was WAY more crowded this time, dunno if it's just gotten more crowded over the years or maybe we had gone during a weekday last time (it was a Saturday this time).  It was packed with people but not actually too bad.  Many of the shops were super cramped (in terms of the amount of space there) though, nothing like the La Foret mall we had gone through which was more in the Shibuya direction.



Of course no visit to Harajuku is complete without some yummy crepes from one of the famous crepe places!  Mine had banana, nutella, and of course an exorbant amount of cream...



Made it to Sanrio Vivitix in Harajuku, which had quite a great amount of stuff that I ended up buying, including a bunch of Sanrio shirts/tops (!) and a whole bunch of really nice Cinnamoroll merchandise.  Yay Cinnamon!~



Put in all my votes for the Little Twin Stars!  Pom pom purin was actually the most popular character at this store -- kind of interesting to see him making such a comeback, as he was also featured in Sanrio Danshi (which I still have not finished watching lol).  Though it may also be because the Pom pom purin cafe is on the upper floor of the same building...



Here's the Pom pom purin cafe!  Didn't actually eat anything here unfortunately -- had other things I wanted to get to, and not the hugest fan of Pom pom purin, but he is definitely cute!



Looks really nice :)



Went back to Kiddy Land to see if there was any more stuff we wanted to get, haha.



Just look at these Cinnamoroll designs!!!  Gah!  Miyuki Okumura is the designer and character illustrator for Cinnamoroll and she really does a great job.  She is the designer for Wish Me Mell too!



More collaboration stuff -- this time Little Twin Stars x Gintama.



Eating some yummy sushi after another day of shopping!  Last time in Japan we had some amazing sushi at one of the big name places in Tsukiji fish market, but this time just had some at a place in Harajuku.  Like with Beijing, it's sort of nice knowing that the sushi over here in CA isn't super far off from what is in Tokyo.  Which is not to say that it wasn't good, of course :)



Yay shopping~



Had some very yummy fluffy pancakes as well before getting ready to leave :)



Some food from the grocery market too :)



The haul of all the stuff I got :D  Lots of clothes, including some interesting (and expensive!) stuff that I didn't expect to bring back, but am very glad I found -- I'm always craving more good Asian styles for my fashion, so I'm super happy to have brought back some nice clothing in my haul, since it's so hard (basically impossible) to find over here in the states.  Also a metric ton of stationery, a bunch of assorted cute things, a nice water bottle, and some other random odds and ends.  Success!



Assorted thoughts on the trip overall...

- Being in Tokyo was super nice.  I could never live in Asia I don't think, because of a lot of things, but there are things about Japan and Tokyo that I definitely appreciate a lot.  I already mentioned the aesthetic and good design sense, and of course public transit is awesome, but also just the efficiency of everything is great.  If I was there for too long I would probably just feel like a cog in a machine, but for a short bit it was certainly nice.
- I did alright overall with nausea and airsickness...my flight over there was relatively fine, but I didn't end up catching any sleep on the way back, so I was pretty tired and fatigued, ugh.
- Having an epipen on me definitely made me feel a lot safer about eating things.  I luckily didn't end up having to use it for anything -- caught quite a few things with disciplined awareness and care -- but it's something I definitely will always have for any future overseas trip. (not such a big deal for here in the states)
- The experience involved quite a bit of ups and downs, but was smooth overall.  I got stressed out a few times though.  Nothing new really, just the same old types of things.  I don't think there is any way to really improve at it except by trying again and again, and perhaps sucking a bit less every time.
- Came back from the trip overall with some assorted thoughts on people and life.  Nothing revolutionary, nothing mindblowing, just some refreshed perspective.
- I actually got some nice chunks of work done on Rhythm Quest done during the flights and some of the downtime lol.  I guess I really do decompress by.....doing more work.....sigh.
- Traveling with a wifi hotspot was infinitely easier than the past two trips where we traveled completely offline lol, especially when it came to trying to meet up with people who were also traveling, yeesh.  Traveling offline is definitely more than possible, but maybe there's not really a good reason to do it anymore.
- Having a friend hosting us also made things infinitely easier, gosh...




Since coming home I've been up to a variety of different things, including work, putting away all the stuff that I bought, reorganizing my wardrobe, running some various errands, One Hour Compo, playing Risk of Rain 2 (has been fun so far!), etc.  I also reorganized and revamped my soundfont collection and converted quite a bit of them into .wav files (much easier to work with) so it should be much easier to make SNES-styled music in the future -- I'd like to try to make an album like "SNESQUE" at some point.  Cooking at home again has been lovely, as well as simply just being home in general.  It was a good trip but I definitely was excited to be back.  This Saturday I'm hosting a little celebration for 30 -- side note, I went over to disable timeline posting only to find that it was already disabled since last year lol.  Should be fun!

Until next time...